iWork Money

Bradely J Moore shares with us some thoughts on the conflict between money and ones spiritual life.

It’s nice to make money, isn’t it?

Now don’t give me that look.

A healthy desire to make money does not necessarily imply greed, or obsession, or that one is dedicating one’s life to serving the dreaded Mammon. All I’m saying is, as a practical matter, having money sure does come in handy. In fact, it is pretty much a requirement these days for getting around in our 21st century Western culture.

When choosing a career, I kept this important little detail in mind as I aspired to earn a decent living, with an equally strong intention towards doing something that I liked and was also good at.

What could possibly be wrong with that?

The problem I encountered as a young Christian man, however, was that I often detected a quiet disapproval coming from the church when it came to having a genuine interest in pursuing a “secular” career. I felt a gnawing sense that any desire to earn a solid income was somehow the antithesis of spirituality, associated instead with selfishness, materialism, worldliness and cutthroat-ism.

Growing up, the evangelical church taught me that the only ambition God was truly pleased with was the passion for making disciples, missions, or leading others to Christ. So if you had a sincere spiritual desire to seek out God’s plan for your life, then by default your primary vocation was going to be a disciple-maker. Just like Jesus (the missionary Jesus, not the working-for-the-family-business carpenter Jesus).

But what if I am not “called” to that? What if my gifts, talents and personality are better suited for business pursuits? I struggled with this for years as I developed a career in management consulting, and then eventually found my way to a corporate executive position.

High Calling Blogger Larry Peabody addresses this and many other sticky issues of integrating our faith with our work in a series called “Religious Ruts in Your Work World”. His recent post (Part 15), talks about this specific question of whether a good Christian can also have a good job. “Scripture makes it clear,” he says, “that God applauds (not just allows) working to earn.”

Well, that’s a relief. Because God help us all if He doesn’t.

Peabody tackles head on the church’s subtle disapproval of making money. He directly addresses the tension between those in ministry who believe God prefers that we “live by faith” (which is French for ”no consistent paycheck”), and those who wake up every morning to a job that brings home the bacon. Earning money, he insists, does not make you materialistic.

Peabody points out four biblical teachings about the uses of money.

To meet your own personal need for support
To care for the needs of your family
To have enough to share with those in need
To share with our Christian teachers and gospel workers.
Sure, greed can be dangerous, but as Larry says,

“So can hammers, horses, and hot plates. Any of them can be properly used—or misused. The Bible warns us that wanting to get rich sets us up for a tumble into a snare. And it calls loving money “the root of all kinds of evil.” But with sound teaching and right hearts, believers can live by faith even as they earn their incomes and use the money in God-approved ways

I have also found many places in the New Testament where Jesus uses work analogies to make a point about the kingdom of heaven. These management characters teach lessons about shrewdness, work ethic, generosity, responsibility, and patience. It’s like Jesus was teaching the crowds in parables, but with stories about their work. Something they could relate to. What a concept. At some level, I feel that Jesus was acknowledging the normalcy of business, work and earning a paycheck as part of the very fabric of society.

I mean, somebody’s got to do it.

My take is this: God gives each of us a unique calling to be discovered, an ambition that we must pursue to be whole, to be fully human and fully ourselves. We can not qualify the value of one vocation over another. We are all uniquely distinct, and we must embrace and respect the diversity of interests and ambitions of each person. Ultimately, the output of our vocation should be the revelation of God’s love through our work, through our results, to the fellow employees and customers we interact with, and through the resources we give back to the world.

And, if by God’s grace, we can reach a point in our life where we are well compensated for doing something we like, and something we are also actually good at, then I would suggest that surely God is pleased and we are blessed. And by passing on these gifts to others thus continues a generous circle of His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Bradley J. Moore is an executive in a large corporation in the Northeast which shall remain nameless. He posts regularly at shrinkingthecamel.com and every Tuesday at the High Callings Blog. Brad’s writing has also been featured in The Conference Board Review magazine and The Chicago Sun Times.